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Narancia found her loitering outside Neptune’s fountain — their eyes met across the street, and he pointed a finger at her, and she gave him a little wave, and then he was running over. Fugo half-expected him to tackle her, throw them both into the city-stained water; he just slumped down onto the bench next to her, grinned.

“Hello, gangster.” His laugh was still that slightly-nasal cackle. “Who’s in trouble?”

Fugo rolled her eyes. Couldn’t fight back a smile. “Good to see you too, Narancia.”

Narancia frowned. “Uhhh, alright, keep it a secret, see if I care.” Leaned in, arched an eyebrow. “But in case you’re here to get me — I’ll let you know I can still hold my own.”

Fugo nodded. “I’ll let Giorno know.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Tell her to lift that five hundred euro price we had on your head before we lose good men — “

Narancia’s shove hit her with enough force to actually make her stumble for balance. “Fuck you, I’m worth at least a thousand.”

“Did you get stronger?”

“Uh-huh!”

“Jesus.”

He just laughed. Wiped his nose with the back of his hand.

“Abba is in going to be a nurse,” he added, unprompted. “Did you hear about that?”

Fugo didn’t. She knew it was her own fault. “She’d kill you for calling her that.”

“She’d kill you, maybe.” He stuck his tongue out. “I get special privileges. I’m her going-back-to-school buddy.”

“Huh.” Narancia had always been Leone’s favourite, actually, but Fugo didn’t feel like she needed to point that out. Narancia had always been everyone’s favourite. “Hard to imagine her as a nurse.”

“Soon you won’t have to imagine.” Narancia glanced at her. “Unless you, like, keep avoiding us forever.”

Called out. Fugo winced.

“I’m not avoiding you.”

“Su-uure,” Narancia grinned. “You know, I’m super school smart now too, you have to be honest with me.”

“Is that how that works?”

“Sure is!”

“System must’ve changed since I’ve last been in.”

Narancia snickered again. Took a deep breath.

“For real,” he locked their eyes. “Stop avoiding us.”

Fugo swallowed.

“Fugoo — “

“I’m talking to you right now, aren’t I?” she snapped. Immediately felt bad. Ducked her head. “I’m not — sorry. I’m not — “

“Yeah, uh,” Narancia breezed through her apology. “That’s cause I ambushed you, smartass, you’ve been ignoring everyone’s texts and hangouts and reading group chats at like, unholy hours without responding to anything and — “

Fugo could feel her ears burn red. Slapped a hand over Narancia’s mouth.

“— okay,” she said (Narancia grinned against her palm). “Okay, maybe I am avoiding you.”

“You are,” Narancia shoved her hand away. “But admitting you have a problem is the first step to fixing it — “

“Did Abbacchio teach you that?”

“Yeah, actually.” Narancia frowned. “She just got her ninety day badge the other day.”

Fugo blinked.

“I didn’t mean — “ she bit down on another apology. “A badge? Is she in a rehab, or — “

“A support group.” Narancia looked away. “Again, you’d know, if you hung out with us at all — “

“I get it.”

“Anyways,” he said. “Come to my birthday party.”

Fugo didn’t respond.

Narancia’s groan was nothing short of theatrical. Got a few heads turned.

“I’ll tell Bruno on you,” he jabbed a finger into her arm. “Tell them you’re being a spoilsport again.”

“A spoilsport?” Fugo had a few different terms for what she did.

“A spoilsport,” Narancia confirmed. Jumped back onto his feet. “Anyways, I actually have class in, like, five minutes, so I have to run.”

Fugo nodded. Her mouth felt a little dry.

“Go do that,” she said. Found herself avoiding his eyes. “Glad I caught you.”

Narancia snorted. “Yeah, you caught me, sure.” He rolled his eyes. Held up a fist before her face.

Warily, Fugo eyed it.

“Bump it,” Narancia stage-whispered.

Fugo did as told.

“Good job,” Narancia snorted. Bounced backwards. “You might even be cool one day.”

“That’s what constitutes cool nowadays?”

“You’ll need to drop those words, though, you sound like a loser.” He laughed again. “Where are you off to?”

Fugo shrugged.

Narancia squinted. “Are you just...sitting here?”

Fugo shrugged again.

“Uh. Okay.” Narancia did an exaggerated version of her shrug. “I was going to offer to walk you somewhere, you know, cause I’m chivalrous like that —”

Fugo was glad to see Narancia’s dedication to the butch life-style didn’t go anywhere. “How thoughtful.”

“But if you insist on being a weirdo, okay.” He paused. Smiled. “And I’d really like it if you came to my birthday party.”

He ran off before she had to come up with a response.

__

Giorno’s office was always full of light. Sometimes it was near painful to be in there — the floor-length windows, curtainless, the sunlight splattered over walls and into Giorno’s hair. Being summoned to her office before noon always left Fugo blinking away light-specks for an hour afterwards, thinking about the pale ends of Giorno’s lashes for much longer.

She originally didn’t think to question it — there was something about Giorno’s presence that made her normally soundly analytical brain yield to just experiencing, made her ready to accept whatever behaviour Giorno saw fit. The natural shift would’ve been easy to explain through self-perseverance — through the common sense on not questioning your donna unless you had a death wish — but it wasn’t fear. Awe, maybe. Respect. Fear of god. Like Cicero had said, non timor, sed admiratio et gratitudo.

Fugo had since learned two very important things.

”Oh,” Giorno had said, one especially sunny morning. She had sunglasses on — that was what finally got Fugo’s brain to work and ask if getting some curtains wouldn’t be more convenient. “I used to have them — I turned them into snakes two months ago.”

Fugo felt her eyebrows go up.

“Don’t they turn back?”

“If I make them,” Giorno grimaced. “But I couldn’t do that. They were friendly.”

Fugo made some sort of a sound in response. “And you can’t….buy new ones?”

“I could,” Giorno started studying her nails.

Fugo’s eyebrows crept up even further. “...But?”

“But,” Giorno shrugged. Muttered something.

Fugo scowled. “Come again?”

“Nothing,” Giorno looked away. “Then Abbacchio would find out.”

Fugo had no response.

“We talk, sometimes.” Giorno rested her head on her chin. “She always calls Mista first, and then comes to me with all the information, and just lists off everything I could have done better.”

Fugo stared.

“And I do appreciate it,” Giorno rushed to add. “It keeps me grounded. Gives me things to work around. I can see now why Bruno kept her so close.”

“Yeah.” Fugo doubted that was the main reason, but was glad to let that one slide.

“But sometimes she just laughs at me,” Giorno sighs. “And hanging up first would be an admission of weakness.”

Fugo opened her mouth. Closed them.

“So I need to sit there for at least a full minute before she gets bored of herself,” Giorno gave another long suffering sigh. “Then I can ask about Buccellati, and she gets flustered, and then the conversation usually ends.” She looked up at Fugo, dead serious. “So, you understand now, why I cannot let any information regarding my current predicament go public.”

Fugo blinked.

“Giorno.”

Giorno hummed, inquisitive.

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

The first thing she learned was that Giorno was, actually, really stupid.

The second thing Fugo learned was that she was also really stupid — something all that testing she’d been through during her formative years seemed to have managed to miss — and also really, really hopeless. Because watching Giorno needlessly complicate her own life, somehow, ended up being the thing to break Fugo out of her harmless, if a little blasphemous reverie, and turn straight into a crush.

On her boss. On her stupid boss.

The Thursday after, Giorno had Sheila ask Fugo to find a trustworthy vet specialized in wild species native to Africa. Fugo could barely contain herself until the call ended — spent the next twenty-four minutes screaming into a pillow.

“I keep getting emotionally attached,” Giorno said, once Fugo and Sheila showed up to her house with a pet carrier. She had a common genet pulled close to her chest.

Fugo stared.

“I suppose there are still sides of my Stand that are out of my control,” Giorno heaved a sigh. The genet perked up.

“Giorno,” Fugo said.

Sheila was snickering.

“Yes, Fugo?” The Genet was now gently chewing at Giorno’s braid — Giorno watched it, obviously content.

“That’s — okay.” She closed her eyes, inhaled. Counted to five. “Giorno, first of all, that is not a Stand thing — “

“How is it not,” Giorno cut in.

Fugo forced herself to not snap at her boss. “Giorno, it’s just a case of you being soft on — on animals I’m pretty sure are illegal to be kept as pets, holy shit, is this even safe?”

“It likes me,” Giorno deadpanned. The genet hissed at Fugo. “And your argument does not make sense.”

“My argument does not — “

“My Stand is a manifestation of my soul,” Giorno rocked the cat-like animal soothingly. “And my emotions are expressions of the same — “

“You can’t — “ Fugo was losing it. “— write your personality traits off as Stand features just because it sounds more dramatic!”

Giorno shrugged. “Yet I did.”

Fugo just grit her teeth. Looked to Sheila.

Sheila seemed to be struggling to keep a straight face, hand pressed to her mouth.

“Hey, boss.” She turned to Giorno. “Named it yet?”

Giorno’s brow furrowed, as it tended to when she was thinking. Fugo hated how cute she looked.

“Maybe Coccolino,” Fugo supplied dryly. “Since that’s the brand of fabric softener it used to be before you lost control of your stand.”

Giorno glared up.

Sheila started laughing.

“How about,” she choked out. “Fugo, since I feel like it’ll get to eat you soon.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Giorno said, the same time as Fugo scoffed, “She doesn’t want to give her new pet food poisoning.”

“First of all, she’s not a pet.” Giorno switched the shoulders the wild cat was leaning on. “She’s a guest.”

“Wow,” Sheila said.

“And secondly,” she looked at Fugo again. “I do not permit self-deprecating talks in my household.”

Fugo rolled her eyes.

“Plus, you survived eating a Purple Haze capsule.” Giorno smiled down at the animal. “I’m sure she would too.”

Fugo watched her smile turn into a positive beam as the genet pressed one paw to her nose.

Realized she was so, so screwed.

__

“Wow,” Sheila spoke, around a mouthful of peanut butter. She was breaking the no-double-dipping rule again, but Fugo was too distraught to scold her. “You only just realized?”

“I — “ Fugo was slumped in her seat, hands pressed against her face. The backseat of Mista’s car, their current location, smelled like cheese puffs. “I guess I just didn’t want to notice.”

Sheila hummed. “I get that.” She popped her fingers out of her mouth, scooped up some more peanut butter. Fugo scowled. “But, come on.”

“That’s very unhygienic,” Fugo told her.

“What, crushing on Giorno?” She made direct contact while dipping both fingers into the jar once again. “Just don’t eat after me, then.”

“I’m never letting you near my fridge,” Fugo said. “I’m never eating anything you had access to.”

“More for me.”

“Was that your plan along?”

“Maybe,” Sheila laughed, Put the lid back on, dropped the jar into one of the grocery bags. “Also, weird hill for you to die on?”

“How is — “

“You ate your Virus capsule.”

“I bit into it,”

“Same difference,”

“There is a difference!”

“It was in your mouth, is all I’m saying — “

Whatever she was about to say was swallowed with Mista’s loud bang on the car roof — he cracked the shotgun door open, squinted at them both.

“No fighting in my car,” he said.

Sheila flashed him a thumbs-up. Fugo just rolled her eyes.

Mista pointed at her. “And no eye-rolling.”

“Are we,” Sheila snorted. “Your kids?”

“His Bullets,” Fugo supplied.

“I call dibs on Number Three.”

“You would.”

“You can be Number Five.”

“I’ll be Sheila E.”

“God —” Sheila laughed. “Quit the, I am you, thing, it’s getting worse.”

Fugo looked away to hide her grin. “I am so sorry,” she managed to keep her voice level. “My pain is your pain — “

She dodged the carrot stick instinctively. It bounced off the car window, down behind the seat.

“Sheila!” Mista swiped the rest of the bag out of Sheila’s grasp, shoved it in his back pocket. “Don’t — you are worse than the bullets.”

“Debatable,” Fugo said.

“You are!” Mista started climbing into the car. Had to put the carrot bag back out, because sitting on them apparently wasn’t comfortable — eyed Sheila suspiciously as he was putting it away. “And there’s only two of you, so that’s fucking impressive.”

Sheila grinned, starting up the car. “Thanks.”

--

“You know,” Giorno starts. Picks her cup of tea up, just so she would have something to do with her hands. “A lot of people used to hold you in very high regards.”

Bruno, who is yet to question why the head of the Italian mob showed up to their home unannounced, tilts their head and hums. “Thank you?”

“I am not saying many do not still hold you in high regards. That would be blatantly wrong,” Giorno goes on. “You are a very good person. I cherish your guidance.”

Bruno looks like they’re holding back a smile. Or a snort. A mix of both. “Thank you.”

“But you — “ Giorno takes a deep breath. Gathers her thoughts. “When we met, you were — Narancia, Bruno, Mista,” she stammers a bit, “Abbacchio, half of Naples, they — “ She exhales. “— trusted you unquestioningly — well.”

Bruno is making the same face. “Fugo had some questions.”

“Fugo was different — “ The was is so apt Giorno nearly laughs. Forces her face to remain calm. “How did you deal with that?”

“Ah,” Bruno rests their chin on their knee, nods. “That was where this was going.”

“It was,” Giorno looks down.

“I was starting to think you were about to try recruiting me again.”

“I — “ Giorno’s head snaps up. “I would not — “

“Was ready to make a break for it.” They shift slightly and reveal a zipper they had running along the lining of their sofa. Close it back up.

Giorno blinks. Wants to laugh. “Well, first of all, you could never outrun me. “

“Right,”

“But, Bruno — “ she fixes their eyes with hers, wills them to understand she is sincere. “I would never ask you to sacrifice your happiness again.”

Bruno smiles. “I know.” They settle in more comfortably. “I do trust you — it’s just,” they laugh. “I really don’t want back in.”

“And I respect that,” Giorno says. Hesitates. “Even though we don’t sell narcotics any more — “

“Giorno.”

She smiles. “Kidding.”

They squint. Don’t seem fully convinced.

Giorno keeps smiling. “How is Leone doing?”

Bruno is just about to answer, when the woman in question walks in — pokes Giorno’s forehead in passing.

Giorno accepts it as a sign of affection. “Speak of the devil.”

“Stop bothering my wife,” she comes to rest behind Buccellati’s seat, and leans onto the backrest. “What’s this about your issues?”

Giorno presses her lips together. Takes a sip of tea, to buy time.

Leone scoffs, and slumps forward across Bruno’s shoulders.

Bruno taps her cheek, whispers a word of comfort — watching their finger card through Leone’s hair, Giorno feels her chest tighten.

“I — “ she whispers. “Might be finding things a bit overwhelming.”

Bruno’s face contorts in sympathy.

Leone just looks up through her lashes. “What was that, donna Giovanna?”

She always said it like it was a rare bowel disease. Giorno sighs.

“Is running the Italian mafia at the age of sixteen stressful?”

“I never said it wouldn’t be,” Giorno says.

“Someone admitting they bit off more than they could chew?”

“Someone somewhere surely is,” Giorno puts her teacup down. “I am managing.”

“Sure you are — I heard about your curtains — “

Bruno laughs into their hand, while Giorno closes her eyes and thinks her daily mean thought about Mista. He is so kind and helpful she feels guilty thinking any more, but sometimes he really does test her patience.

“Sweetheart,” Bruno scolds, but Leone just taps her nose.

“That’s what she came here for,” Leone adds. “It’s healthy for a growing child to have someone call out their bullshit.”

“I don’t think that’s actually — “

“She literally came to complain about being idolized.” Leone slips down the sofa, so that her one leg is hooked over the backrest and her head is in Bruno’s lap. “I am restoring balance.”

Giorno isn’t going to admit it, but Leone is right.

Bruno shakes their head, but looks fond all the same. “I don’t think either extreme is good.”

Leone rolls her head back, sighs. “So picky.”

Laughing, Bruno gives her nose a quick peck. Looks up at Giorno.

“So,” they say. “Is there anything particular you want to talk about?”

Even Leone goes silent; studies her nails non-threateningly.

Giorno sighs. “I don’t know where to start.”

Leone rolls her eyes. “So start anywhere?” She glances up. “How’s Fugo?”

Giorno ends up dumping everything that’s been on her chest, out in Buccellati’s living room.

Talks about how Sheila called her more right than god (“To be fair,” Abbacchio cut in there, “Maybe she just doesn’t think highly of god.”), about how the new recruits sometime ask if she’s an angel. About how she turned a strange man’s walking stick into a snake to drag his attention away from two young girls and a passerby started talking about Moses. About Narancia introducing her as his friend, who can do anything. Stammers over Fugo’s recruitment, cheeks burning at the memory of lips on her knuckles, Fugo’s voice raw from crying (and also nearly dying a week prior).

“Hm,” Leone says. She’s since shifted into a sitting position, but now has her legs in Bruno’s lap. “Not going to lie, thought that’d be right up your alley.”

Giorno bites her lip.

“Being perceived as — “ she hesitates.

“A god?” Leone supplies dryly.

“— Infallible,”

Leone leans into Bruno. “So, a god?”

Bruno shushes her.

“Does have its advantages,” Giorno ignores them. “I want any potential enemies to think I could strike them down if I wanted to. I could.” She inhales. Ignores Leone’s muttered, “do you hear this girl.” “I just — “

She’s at a loss for words again. Bruno jumps in.

“Not from everyone,” they offer.

Giorno’s throat feels tight. She nods.

“I am — “ she starts. Pauses. Pushes on. “Not infallible.”

Abbacchio whistles.

“And I don’t want to — “ she realizes she’s shaking. “Have them feel — “ she needs to put her tea down again. Clasps her hands together. “Betrayed, when I inevitably — “

She registers, through unfocused eyes, Leone swinging her legs out of Bruno’s lap, and then Bruno is at her side.

Giorno lets out the breath she’s been holding, and herself be hugged.

Bruno rubs gentle circles into her back as she clings onto their sweater. They smell like fish and the Sea but Giorno finds she does not mind. They’re warm, and present in a way she is unused to appreciating. She buries her face in their shoulder, and they hug her tighter, and it’s like a dam inside her crumbles into nothing.

The wetness on her cheeks feels primordial. She cries until her head feels light, her body exhausted.

Bruno doesn’t let go of her until she makes a move to pull away.

“I’m sorry,” she sniffs. “I don’t -—”

Bruno just shushes her. Shakes their head. Still has one hand on her shoulder.

Something hits the back of Giorno’s head then — she looks down, she sees it’s tissues.

“Congratulations,” Leone drawls from the kitchen door. “So you really are human.” She has a glass of water in her hand; she sets it down before Giorno without a word.

Giorno gives it an over exaggerated sniff. Leone, back on the couch, rolls her eyes.

“I will pretend I don’t know why you would do that,” Bruno is still squatting next to her, with one of her hands in theirs. They smile. “Feeling better?”

Giorno considers it. “I think so.”

Bruno urges her to drink the water. She does. “Crying is really good for you — I think it resets emotions — uh.” They make a face. “Fugo explains it better.”

Giorno feels herself lock up at the mention of the name.

Across the table, Leone’s eyebrow arches.

Bruno frowns. “Oh no — are you two fighting?”

“No,” Giorno hurries. “Just — “

“Fugo just got back in,” Leone says. “Even she wouldn’t immediately go against the boss.”

Giorno feels herself frown. Abbacchio’s face shows she knows she hit the nail on the head.

“So,” she goes on. “Mista treats you like a honorary bullet, two of us know how hopeless you are and we let you into our home whenever,”

Giorno rolls her eyes, reaches for that tissue box.

“And sure, Narancia is enthusiastic beyond reason, but — he’s like that with everything.” Leone kicks her legs up on the coffee table. “He used to introduce me as the strongest woman alive even though I had to have Bruno open our jars half the time.”

Bruno snorts. Winks at Giorno. “I use zippers.”

“Good trick.” Giorno blows her nose. Grimaces. “But Sheila — “

“Currently thinks you’re in the right,” Leone sighed. “If she ever feels you’re not, she’ll behave accordingly.”

“But — “

“She’s dramatic in her word choices but won’t blindly follow you into her death,” she cuts her off. Glances at Bruno. “Anything to add?”

They shake their head. “You’re doing so well.”

Leone scowls.

“Okay,” Giorno turns her crumpled up tissue into a beetle, and lets it crawl up her hand. “I see your point.”

“High praise, donna Giovanna.”

Giorno smiles.

“Want to talk about Fugo now?” Bruno asks, then, softly, and Giorno’s smile drops.

“I — “ she swallows. “Not really.”

There’s a beat of silence.

“It’s just that she really caught me unprepared — “

“Not even two seconds,” Abbacchio notes. “That’s almost impressive.”

Bruno shushes her again.

“I was excited about hiring her,” Giorno goes on. “Because she seemed to care little for my dream and I thought — well.” She frowns. “I wanted to see if I could change her mind, given another chance, and I suppose I succeeded — “

Abbacchio is rolling her eyes again.

“Being overly ambitious,” Giorno sighs. “Might be a flaw of mine.”

Abbacchio is slow clapping.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing!” Bruno insists. “It’s charming. It’s you.”

“It’s her hamartia.”

“Her what?”

“She can ask Fugo about it too,” Abbacchio says. “You wanted Fugo to — what? Be rude to you?”

Giorno grimaces. “No? That sounds — “ she shakes her head. “I wanted her to — to be objective regarding my strategies.”

Bruno frowns. “Is she not?”

Giorno watches her tissue-beetle fly away. “I don’t know.”

“Giorno.”

“How would I know?”

“I doubt Fugo could let a dumb plan go through, even if her god himself came down to present it,” Abbacchio says. “Do you have actual complaints?”

Giorno flushes. Feels childish. Hates that she feels childish. “I just — “

“You just…”

“Don’t want to disappoint,” she slumps in her chair. “Fugo.”

Bruno’s eyebrows go up. They look back at Leone.

Leone just snorts. “Trust me, Giorno, she’s been disappointed in people before.”

“But — “

“Plus,” Leone isn’t stopping. “If you don’t want to disappoint her, just — don’t? I thought you wanted to run the mafia because you thought you could do a good job.”

“Yes, but — “

“And now other people think so too,” Leone cocks an eyebrow. “You are making a federal case out of nothing.” She kicks the tissue box closer to Giorno. “Like, jesus, kid. Just keep not hurting innocent people and you’re set.”

“I never planned on hurting innocent people,” Giorno finally cuts her off. “I’m not planning on making her hate me.”

Leone has no response.

Giorno draws in a shaky breath. “I’m just scared she won’t…..like me as much.”

“Giorno,” Bruno starts.

“When she gets to know me,” Giorno gets out.

“Oh my god,” Leone says.

“I am not overreacting,” Giorno insists. “She just — went from not trusting me enough to save Trish’s life to kneeling before me in empty restaurants, I never planned on having her kneel, she called me — “ her voice cracks. “Her Giogio, I expected her to — “

“Giorno.”

“— mistrust me for at least a week, I was going to earn her trust properly, but she just — just gave it to me, and I don’t know how I did that, and I don’t — “ She inhales. “I don’t know how to keep living up to that.”

“Giorno,” Bruno squeezes her hand. “Don’t freak out — but do you,”

Giorno lifts an eyebrow.

Bruno’s smile turns apologetic. “Do you have a crush on Fugo?”

Giorno feels her entire face go red. In her peripheral vision, Leone lets out a loud snort.

“Oh my god,” Giorno hears her say. “Mista owes me ten bucks.”

Giorno’s head snaps up. “What?”

Abbacchio looks smug. “He said Fugo would fall in love with you within a week. I said you’d be the first one to go.”

Giorno’s eyes widen.

“Now,” Bruno says. “That bet is null, because I said so.”

Leone shrugs. “I’m getting paid in bragging rights.” She glances at Giorno. “Also, not denying it?”

Giorno stammers. “I might like Fugo.”

She likes Fugo so much. She likes how awkward Fugo is. Likes how cautious she is with Giorno’s plants. Likes putting small animals in her hands and watching her focus on keeping her grip gentle, the small furrow in her brow as she explains to it wiggling won’t help. Likes the infodumping. Likes how embarrassed she acts every time her temper gets the best of her. Likes her weird suits. Likes her shoulders.

The look on Abbacchio’s face makes Giorno feel she can, for sure, read minds. She buries her face in her hands, bites her tongue.

“You’re the last person who can make fun of me for this,” she chooses to say.

With a final laugh, Abbacchio leans back. “Got me there.”

__

“Did you,” Fugo is gawking at her, from the doorway. Even after three months in her employ, she’s still walking on eggshells around Giorno. “Call me in for this?”

Giorno knows, and is constantly reminded by a voice that sounds suspiciously like Abbacchio’s, that three months is not that long of a time. That they’ve been apart longer, after knowing each other for shorter. That expecting anyone to warm up to her so suddenly is a lot to ask for. You really think you’re that likeable, the brain-Abbacchio scoffs. Giorno is getting better at ignoring her.

And, really, in her defence, she is that likeable. Everyone else likes her. She’s on first name basis with all her employees. Fugo is the only one maintaining this — this weird, uncomfortable, technically professional but mostly just maddening distance. After their first conversation, the first one after everything went down — with Fugo down on her knees, swearing her loyalty — well.

A certain pace was set. Giorno came to expect a certain pace. To have their relationship freeze in its track, even regress slightly — it’s throwing her off. Giorno tries to be understanding. Is mostly puzzled.

“Yes,” she says, presently. Gestures for Fugo to enter; Fugo does, still gawking.

“You called me in to feed your pet,” she says.

Giorno blinks.

“Yes,” she confirms, again. Her California King Snake burrows into her braid. “You said you weren’t busy.”

“I thought —” Fugo clears her throat. Straightens up. “Well, I expected mafia business but — you are the boss.”

Giorno nods.

“I guess all of your business is mafia business.”

“Not all, I hope,” Giorno mutters. Gently helps Sticky out her hair, sets them back into their terrarium. “The mice should be thawed by now — top drawer.”

Fugo is scowling again. Goes to open the drawer nonetheless.

“God,” Giorno can hear her mutter. “God, Giorno.”

Giorno hums inquisitively.

“Nothing,” Fugo says, the way she always does when there’s something. “You just...really have a dead mouse in your drawer.”

“Two,” Giorno corrects. Sticky is safely put away — she goes on to find Moody. She’d seen her crawl under the desk a few minutes ago. Knows she couldn’t have gotten very far, but snakes are known escape artists. “And they’ve only been there for half an hour — I normally keep them in a freezer.”

“Right.”

“Like a normal person.”

Right,,” a beat of silence. “Why are you under the desk?”

“Getting the other snake,” Giorno says, deciding to ignore that, for a diagnosed genius, Fugo sure seems baffled by a lot of things. “Can you keep an eye on what Sticky is doing?”

A beat. “Sticky?”

Giorno finally locates Moody — the Lavender Corn Snake is climbing up the table leg, almost fully off the ground now. Giorno had learned, by now, that it’s a thing they like doing — decides to wait for her inevitable fall, and flips over to her back.

“Yes,” she says. “The snake in the terrarium.”

“You called it…” she can see Fugo’s feet moving around the carpet. “Sticky?”

Giorno feels her face heat up. “What about it?”

“Your black-and-white snake?”

“I feel like you’re aiming at something.”

Fugo squats down by the table — grins down at Giorno.

“Not at all,” she says. The sunlight comes in behind her, framing her face like liquid gold.

Giorno feels her breath hitch.

Moody drops down before she can say anything incriminating. Hits her square on the face.

Jesus!” Fugo almost falls over — Giorno grabs the currently upset snake, takes a deep breath.

Starts laughing.

“Oh my god,” Fugo is still wide-eyed. Has a hand on her chest. “It — it just came down.”

“Yeah,” Giorno laughs again. Rolls out from under the table (Fugo has to move her legs, lest they crash — their knees brush, and Giorno hates how fluttery it makes her). “She does that a lot.”

“She?” Fugo asks. Peers down at the snake in Giorno’s hands.

Giorno sits up.

“I was going to ask if this one is called Fingers,” Fugo is saying. They’re eye-level now. “But looking at the colour…”

Fugo feels her face flush.

Fugo grins. “Blues?”

Giorno looks away, busted. “She’s not blue.”

Fugo snorts.

“Neither is Abbacchio.”

“Not any more.”

Fugo puts a fist to her mouth. Her shoulders are shaking with silent laughter.

“I might have,” Giorno starts. “Been thinking about them.” She looks down at the snake in her hands. “When this happened?”

“About who?” She can hear the laughter in Fugo’s speech. “I see no correlation between our shared friends and the two snakes named Sticky and — “

Giorno waits until it’s safe to assume Fugo isn’t about to continue again. “Moody.”

“Moody,” Fugo repeats. “Moody and Sticky.”

Giorno looks up at her. Dares her to say anything more.

Fugo still has a hand to her mouth. “Nothing.”

Giorno is holding back a smile of her own. “Go get their food.”

Sheila E

heyo boiled cream whats good

owners kid down at Decumano asked about you

Tell her I said hi.

That I’m feeding snakes.

done and done and you owe me

also are you really

(photo)

Yes.

How do you feel about knowing the woman running the italian mafia doesn’t want to touch dead mice?

i mean tbh if you want to touch dead mice somethings really wrong with you

True.

more importantly

is how do YOU feel about it

Awful.

She named them after Bruno and Leone.

She missed them so much she turned her curtains into snakes.

That’s so?? Stupid. Stupid cute.

l o l

Fugo found herself faring with it the same way she fared with any other unfamiliar situation — by digging through her collecting of useless trivia, and clinging onto anything that was even mildly relevant.

“Did you know,” she said, watching the greyish-pink snake bite into a rodent. “That snakes don’t actually dislodge their jaws?”

Giorno, who had stopped watching the moment Fugo took the dead mice out of their drawer, shook her head.

“It’s a common myth,” Fugo went on. “But actually, their lower jaw is not — uh, connected up front.” Sheila had told her, a few weeks ago, that using words she knew other people wouldn’t know made her look like an asshole. Sheila told Fugo things Fugo did made her look like an asshole at least three times a day, so Fugo paid it little mind — but she found herself actively avoiding looking like an asshole, when Giorno was around. “It’s — kind of interesting.”

Moody dragged her mouse back into the enclosure — Sticky, apparently less of a shy eater, was almost done swallowing.

“It sounds interesting,” Giorno confirmed. “Are they — done?”

Fugo squinted. There were no visible bumps anywhere on Fingers’ length, but she had no idea what Moody was or would do.

“We can put a — a towel, or something, over the terrarium?”

Giorno glanced over. “Good idea — uh.”

“I’d volunteer my suit, but —” I’m not wearing anything underneath.

Giorno glanced back away. “Oh — same.”

A beat.

“If only you had some curtains.”

“Shut up.” Giorno started laughing. “Okay — come over.”

And Fugo did. She walked over to the table, hesitated - Giorno scooted over, patted the space next to them.

Fugo sat down. Her limbs felt foo long.

Giorno wasn’t looking her way.

“So,” she said, after a beat. “Are you coming to Narancia’s birthday party?”

Fugo looked down. “He invited me.”

“Are we pretending that counts as an answer?”

Fugo sighed.

“Maybe,” she said. Paused. “As long as it’s not on a boat.”

Giorno burst out laughing. Pressed a hand to her mouth.

“I apologize,” she said. “It’s just — “

Her cheeks were flushed. Corners of her eyes crinkled. Fugo was screwed.

“— Trish — made the same joke — “

Fugo grimaced.

Giorno gripped her shoulder, clearly struggling to force her face back into neutrality — Fugo found herself too enraptured to feel irritated.

“She meant nothing bad,” Giorno added.

Fugo nodded. “You’re allowed to joke about it.” She looked away again. “It hurt you more.”

In her peripheral vision, she could feel Giorno’s face fall.

Another loud thunk — Fugo felt herself jump into alertness, freeze as Giorno didn’t.

“It’s the snake,” Giorno said. The hand that had been on Fugo’s shoulder was now hovering in mid-air.

Fugo swallowed. Nodded.

“Moody,” Giorno added.

Fugo felt her heart-rate go back to normal. “Fitting.”

Giorno smiled. “It really is.” She placed both hands into her lap, straightened up. There was smudged mascara under her left eye. “ I bought her several climbing toys but she still insists on crawling up the ceiling, I don’t — “ she closed her eyes, inhaled. “Sorry about the loud noise — I suppose I’ve gotten used to it.”

“No, I — “ Fugo wondered if she should sit back down. Continued awkwardly standing. “Sorry for overreacting.”

“You don’t need to apologize.”

“Okay.”

The moment of silence stretched on. Fugo started getting fidgety.

Another thunk from the terrarium was the sound to break it.

“Christ,” Fugo breathed a laugh (she’d flinched again). “She really likes doing that.”

Giorno chuckled.

“Come to Narancia’s birthday party,” she added.

Fugo kept staring at the floor. “Is that an order?”

Giorno didn’t respond. Fugo chanced a look up.

“It’s,” Giorno said. Breathed. “It’s a friendly request.” She was avoiding Fugo’s eyes too. “You know, you — you can say ‘no’, to things, if you want.”

Fugo frowned.

“If you — you didn’t have to come here today.” Giorno was still staring resolutely out the window. “I — I cannot tolerate direct mutiny, but you can — refuse my requests, or argue with me, I hired you explicitly because I value your opinion — “

“Giorno?”

She exhaled. Glanced over.

“I am not Diavolo,” she said. “I am not — trying to force loyalty.”

Fugo bit her lip. Nodded.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m coming to Narancia’s birthday.”

“This isn’t about — “

“I know,” she cut her off. Winced once she realized what she’d done. “Sorry.”

“Don’t,” Giorno beamed. “That — you can do that.”

Fugo frowned again. “I can — disrespect you?”

“Interrupt me,” Giorno bit down a smile. “I don’t find it disrespectful.”

“I — “ Fugo inhaled. “Okay.”

Giorno smiled.

“Glad you’re coming to Narancia’s party,” she added. “Everyone misses you.”

Fugo felt her face heat up. Said nothing.
__

Apparently, Narancia’s new school friends had already thrown him a surprise party and Trish had already snuck him into a concert so, technically, the celebration Fugo found herself attending was his third one. She thought it fitting. Thought Narancia deserved as many birthday parties as he could fit into his schedule.

“Oh, they love me,” Narancia bragged, speaking about his classmates. “I’m like, everyone’s big sibling. This one girl cut her hair to look like mine.” He flexed. “I finally get the respect I deserve.”

“You always got the respect you deserved,” Fugo said.

“I got none!”

“Exactly.”

Narancia flipped her off. Then grinned.

“Wow,” he said. “I really missed you.”

Fugo felt her chest tighten. Bit back a smile of her own.

“Even though I disrespected your seniority?” she asked, because even though I left back then wasn’t an option.

Narancia nodded solemnly. “I am very forgiving,” he added. “I am getting wise with age.”

Across the room, Fugo met Bruno’s eyes. Bruno just snickered into the back of their hand.

“Oh!” Narancia jumped up, breaking up the mute conversation. “I have something for you — “

He turned around, started scrambling through his backpack. Fugo watched him.

“You know, it’s your birthday.” Fugo folded her arms in front of her, tried not to nervously wrang them. “You’re supposed to be receiving gifts.”

“Maybe I’m like Jesus?” Narancia scoffed. “Nah, just kidding, I’m not dying for anyone — here.”

And with that as the sole warning, a small book was thrust into Fugo’s face — it took her a moment to refocus her eyes, recognize it as a report card.

“Ah,” she gently accepted it, flipped it open. “You got graded?”

“It’s from the last semester,” Narancia crossed his arms. Looked almost nervous.

Mindful of this, Fugo stilled her face into complete impassivity as she skimmed through his grades — he seemed to be struggling with Italian and Math, which was not a surprise, but was doing really well in English and Music. He wasn’t failing anything.

Fugo closed the book. Glanced up at Narancia.

Narancia was all but bouncing in his seat.

“That’s,” she said. “Pretty good.”

A grin spilled across Narancia’s face — like dawn breaking over Capri.

“Thanks,” he swiped the report card back. “Knew that — just needed you to know that too.”

“Right.”

“Turns out it really was the teacher that was the problem.”

She made a move like she’d kick him — he kicked her chair back before she could get far, mouthed a ‘Ha’.

“I’ve been taking up Judo, too.” He said. “I’m like, on top of my game.”

Fugo rolled her eyes. Could not disagree.

Mista found her later; his Stands had originally gone wild over snacks but had since calmed down, and he was now able to socialise.

“So,” he said. “Saw that tender moment you and Nara had.”

Fugo looked over, deadpan.

They were on the balcony; Fugo knew this to be Bruno’s childhood home, and the idea of being allowed in here — the thought of getting invited here, with everyone who ever mattered to her — it made her chest feel tight in ways that weren’t all bad but definitely weren’t easy.

Mista’s arrival had caught her so unprepared she’d dropped her drink.

“Don’t worry;” Mista had said; “My Stands will get it.”

(True to his word, Bullets didn’t seem to mind floor soda).

“He’s doing well,” Fugo said, in response to Mista’s statement. “Can’t believe he really went back to school.”

Mista shrugged. “He’s not a quitter.”

Fugo bit down on her lip. Wondered if that was a jab at her.

“That wasn’t like — a jab at you,” Mista hurried to add. Like a mind-reader. “But if the shoe fits…”

“Thanks.” She tugged at her tie. “But, yeah.” She swallowed. “He’s not.”

When she glanced back up, Mista was smiling.

“You liked him,” he said.

Fugo scowled.

Mista’s grin grew. “You totally did.”

“What — “

“I always thought you kind of — had a thing — “ He leaned against the balcony fence, smug. “Never poked fun at you, cause, like — didn’t want my nose broken — “

“I can still break your nose.”

“But, like, totes knew it.” He laughed. “I asked Narancia about it once, and he went so red — “

Fugo felt her eyes widen.

Mista caught it. Cackled again.

“You’re — you’re terrible,” she said. “What are you —”

“Nothing to be ashamed of,” Mista said. Slumped an arm around her shoulder (she tensed, for a second, but then relaxed against her better sense). “I get it. He probably has some winning qualities.”

Fugo groaned.

“Like, you’re not that much of a catch either — “

“I will,” she rubbed at her temples. Fought back a laugh. “Throw you over.”

“But who’ll give you love advice then?”

“Love advice?” Fugo laughed. “You mean, gloat two years later — “

Mista gasped, then — leaned close into her face, flailed.

“So you admit — “

Fugo smacked the side of his head. He groaned, resigned.

“I thought I liked him,” she hurried to add. Whispered, cause it was mortifying. “He thought he liked me. We —” She could feel herself go red. Mista’s eyes widened in pure joy. “— tried kissing, but —” she grimaces. “Honestly felt a bit like kissing a cousin?”

Mista grimaced.

“Wouldn’t know how that feels,” he adds. “Never kissed a cousin.”

She refused to deign that with a response.

“But — seriously?” He was back in high spirits. “How’d I miss that?”

Fugo shrugged. Snorted. “They do say Clutter Stand Users tend to be all over the place —”

He smacked her this time. She returned it. It ended with Fugo in a chokehold, Mista half-hanging of the balcony — Leone had to come break them apart, swearing all the way through.

It felt like being back home.

__

“By the way,” Leone said, once Mista was back inside and in safety.

Fugo looked up from where she was trying to straighten her tie.

“Bruno — “ Leone paused. Inhaled. “Look. I’ll tell you a story now.”

Fugo blinked. Tilted her head.

“You don’t get to make comments,” Leone poked her in the chest. “Don’t get to look smug. Don’t get to prattle about it later.”

There was an angry blush, visible even in the dimming light. Fugo felt her interest perk up.

“See?” Leone immediately snapped. “None of that.”

Fugo trained her face back into a disinterested expression.

Leone scoffed. “Good enough.” Inhaled again. “Right. So.” Exhale. “Bruno — you might remember,” even the tips of her ears were red now. “For a while, Bruno and I danced around each other.

Fugo kept back a snort. “Maybe so.”

Leone glared. Sighed.

“I wouldn’t make a move because I thought they were too good for me,” she said. “Took me years to realize how stupid that was. That I was basically insinuating I knew what’s good for them better than they did. Denying them the right to make the choice for themselves.”

Somewhere along the line, she stopped avoiding Fugo’s eyes and was instead staring into them with enough focus to intimidate. It stopped feeling like it was just about Bruno.

“You do agree?” she said. “You do see why that’s just — self-centered and stupid?”

Fugo swallowed. Definitely not about just Bruno. “Glad you worked through that, then.”

Leone rolled her eyes. Breathed through her nose.

The slightest possibility Leone was trying to give her romantic advice was enough to stop Fugo from snapping back.

“And another thing was,” Leone added. “Bruno didn’t try anything because — I used to be so annoyed with them then, but hell, they really had no way of knowing —” She tugged at her hair. “They were scared of pursuing me because — the way I acted around them, they had a really strong impression I thought they were this, you know,” she grimaced. “Infallible being.” She smacked her lips, as if to get rid of bad taste. “And they didn’t want — no, fuck that.” She glared at Fugo then. “You know it’s really stressful, for people, to know they’re on a pedestal? Putting someone on a pedestal, it’s really — a really shitty thing to do, to someone.”

Fugo blinked.

“I…” she started. “Don’t have you on a pedestal?”

Leone rolled her eyes. Groaned. “No shit, kid — “

Fugo’s mind was reeling. “I don’t have Bruno on a — do they — “

“God,” Leone slumped against the wall. “You’re so — we used to go behind Bruno’s back together because we thought they were too fragile, I know you know they’re human — “ she caught Fugo’s eyes then, again. “Is there anyone else in your life right now — use your super-brain here — is there anyone who you think might feel like they’re, I don’t know — “

Fugo sucked in a breath.

“This is about Giorno.”

“No shit it’s about Giorno,” Leone spat. “I know she’s, like, inspirational or whatever but she’s sixteen — “

“I know that — “

“She called me five times this week already — Fugo, it’s thursday, that’s more than once a day — “

“It’s one point two five times.“

Leone reached out. Slammed a hand over Fugo’s mouth.

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” she said. Her face softened. “She’s really scared of letting you down.”

Fugo’s eyebrows went up.

“And I doubt she could do that, cause — fuck.” Leone glanced away again, visibly embarrassed. “I remember how it feels, but — “

Fugo’s own face was burning now.

“People don’t always see themselves — how you see them,” Leone got out. “So maybe. Make life easier on everyone. Try — making it harder to misunderstand.”

Fugo stared at her feet. Bit down on her cheek.

“Wow,” she finally said. “Nurse school was one thing, but no one told me you’re specialising in child therapy.”

The play-smack Leone delivered to her head in response felt suspiciously like a head-ruffle.

---

“So,” Mista says, once they’re all packed in the car. There has been no build-up, no cues to pick up on, but the way he angles his head at the rear view mirror makes it clear he’s talking to Fugo. “Ever thought about going to therapy?”

Fugo is in the backseat, next to Giorno, so when she full-body tenses, Giorno can’t miss it.

“Excuse me?”

Sheila, clearly aware their hour-long drive back to Naples is about to get heated, puts on her earphones (she plays no music, however - Giorno can see her walkman, and it’s not even on) (she is so fond of her team).

“You know,” Mista starts the car up. Waves at Narancia and Bruno, who are watching from the balcony. “Like, a trained professional.”

“I know what a fucking therapist is,” Fugo snaps. Looks like a caged animal. “What the fuck, Mista?”

“Jesus, chill,” Mista keeps his eyes on the road, hums. “I’m not making you, I’m just saying — “

“How is that an appropriate question?”

Mista sighs. “Giorno didn’t put up a fuss.”

Fugo looks to her. She waves.

“She cried for the first time this week,” Mista is saying. “For the first time! That’s so sad.”

“Nearly made you cry,” Giorno says.

Mista sniffs (Giorno hides a smile). “And I was — shit, boss, that’s, like — not good — “

“Do you,” Fugo croaks. “Have no concept of professional boundaries?”

“I have such a fucking concept,” Mista says. “You’re all just, literally, walking cries for help, and who am I to turn a deaf ear — “

“I agreed to see a therapist,” Giorno interjects. “Mista made a compelling case about — how did you put it?“

“You being textbook repressed,” Mista says.

“Thank you,” she says. “That.”

“And like, we so lucked out with that stand user in Ospedale San Paolo, why not take advantage?”

Sheila, earbuds still in, nods along.

“Panzanella?” Fugo scowls. “What about her?”

“She’s a therapist.”

“Yeah,” Fugo’s scowl deepens. “She uses her stand to feed off people’s trauma, she’s not — “

“She’s legit!” Mista says. “Like, yeah, her stand is freaky but you can’t deny it feels kind of like a perfect symbiosis.”

“You’re telling me,” Fugo’s face is in her hands. “That we spent five months tracking down a woman who was near unkillable only for you to — what — sign Giorno up for therapy?”

Mista shrugs. “That’s a new development.” He adds, “I’ve been seeing her for months.”

Fugo’s head snaps up.

“So has Sheila,” Mista goes on — Sheila continues pretending she can’t hear them. “Put it on me is not harmful. And she’s really good at her job. Got a licence, and everything.”

Fugo is staring.

“She feeds off bad emotions,” she tries again. “You can’t trust her to — it’s literally in her best interest that people feel worse — “

“Except that it is not,” Giorno interjects.

Fugo’s glare shifts to her.

She refuses to waver. “Patients getting better means more patients,” she says. “Plus, she’s under no threat of losing work. Suffering is not a finite resource.”

Fugo’s jaw clenches. She looks away.

“What will you do once she starts using private information against you?” she hisses. “You’re all just — volunteering secrets — “

If that happens,” Giorno says. “We have ways of dealing with her.”

“Do you?” Fugo’s voice is verging on a shout. “Put it on me’s sole ability is drawing energy from trauma, sending anyone from Passione after her will just result in her immediately buffing herself up on their childhood memories — “

“A-ha!” Mista clapped the wheel. “So you do admit there’s trauma! “

“I never said there wasn’t,” Fugo snaps. “I’m just saying you’re all morons.”

Sheila rolls her eyes.

“Pizzaiola can go after her,” Giorno cuts in (Fugo goes quiet). “His stand — “

“Produces endorphins,” Fugo closes her eyes. “I know.”

She’d been the one making sure Pizzaiola, the small-town Stand-using med student, did not end up taking the Volpe route in life. Giorno watches her exhale.

“He’s also a therapist,” she adds. Eyes Giorno. “Want to see him too?”

Giorno titls her head. “He specializes in psychosis,” she says.

Fugo doesn’t answer.

“There’s also the dude from Rome,” Mista adds. “Fritto Misto? He’s a sham, as far as I can tell, but his Stand can erase memories.”

Giorno catches Fugo’s eyebrows rise in interest.

“Panzanella actually reported him,” she hurries to add. “Turns out, forgetting the traumatic events does not make you less traumatized.”

Fugo’s face falls.

“There’s also the people from our rehab clinics,” Mista adds. “If Panzanella is such an issue for you. Lot of them at least know about Stands. Hard to help any Passione member without knowing about Stands.”

Fugo curls into herself. “I am not an addict.”

“Yeah, but you have issues.” Mista shrugs. “That’s like — what they’re there for. People don’t start using cause they were doing well.”

Fugo’s lips are a thin line.

Mista squints at her in the rearview. Clears his throat.

“Hey, real quick — “

Fugo glares up.

“You don’t, like, think you’re,” Mista’s brows are furrowed. “Better than anyone in rehab, right?”

Fugo’s eyes go wide. “I — “

She pauses. Mista snorts.

“That’s rich,” he says.

“I didn’t say — “

“But you can’t deny it,” Mista rolls his eyes. Meets Giorno’s, as if to communicate a can-you-believe-this. “And, yeah, I know that’s a common attitude but those people at least knew when to ask help — “

“You — “

“I should kick you out of the car,” Mista cuts her off again. “Just to defend Abbacchio’s honour.”

“I don’t think I’m better than Abbacchio.”

“Yeah,” Mista rolls his eyes. “But you don’t think you’re,like, good at all.”

Fugo claws at her knees. Says nothing.

“You think they’re stupid to get addicted,” Mista sails on. “And you think you’re, like, dangerous by nature, or whatever stupid shit.” He pulls over at the side of the road. Pauses the car. “Because you don’t want to acknowledge trauma is a thing.”

Fugo stares.

“Why did we stop?” Sheila theatre whispers.

Giorno stays quiet. Watches Fugo radiate tension.

“See, my problem with you is,” Mista says. “You think ‘murderous’ is a character trait.”

Fugo screws her eyes shut. “You’re — “

“I talked to Abba,” Mista goes on (turns around to face her). “About your duo-missions.”

Giorno perks up at that. It’s the first time she’s hearing about this.

Sheila pops one earbud out. “You duo-mished with Abba?”

Fugo curls into herself. Stares into her knees. “Yeah,” her voice sounds tense. “We took care of dirty work so Bruno didn’t — “ she falters.

Mista makes an inquisitive noise.

Fugo glares. “We killed kids for Passione together, is that what you want me to say?“

“Just wanted to confirm,” Mista slides over it. “Your view on that.”

Fugo looks confused.

“Abba doesn’t remember it like that,” Mista adds. “Abba remembers — “

“She’s so full of shit,” Fugo snaps. “Like, yeah, maybe it was my idea to go behind Bruno's back but she didn't fight me on it — “

“Agreed on that part,” Mista says. “And — don't get me wrong — Bruno absolutely did know — "

Fugo visibly pales.

"Abba just didn’t want you there either.” Mista bites down on their lip. "Abba sort of had a feeling — okay."

Fugo stops talking.

“I’d say I get it? Abba did always try, in her weird tough love way, to protect us as much as she could and at one point we all had to tell her to back off, you know, that we were in this life for the long run, but. “ Mista leans across the seat. “How does a fourteen year old decide they should be the one to deal with something a legal adult is too soft for?”

Fugo says nothing.

“And how do you not — maybe it doesn’t seem that young to you, don’t know.”

“You’re not that much older than me,” Fugo hisses. It’s very quiet.

Mista rolls his eyes. “I’m old enough to know no child should have to kill people.”

Fugo glares. “You killed too.”

“Yeah,” Mista says. “I had to.”

“So why — “

“I never liked it,” Mista snaps. “I can admit I didn’t like it.”

Fugo bares her teeth. “What are you saying?”

“Just that you’d rather push every bad thing you feel so far back it comes out in these uncontrollable violent outbursts, than just admit you’re not doing well — “

“I know I’m not doing well! “

“— and then when your stand personifies this — this conglomerated anger, you take it as validation of you, oh, just being evil or whatever — “

“Oh, fuck you — “

“— instead of admitting you’re a scared, wounded child.”

Fugo kicks the back of his seat so hard Giorno feels it. They both fall quiet.

“I understand,” Fugo croaks out. “— that seeing a psychiatrist was, like, the highlight of your life so far —”

Mista sighs.

“— but that doesn’t make you qualified to play at being one for me.”

Mista tilts his head. “Am I wrong, though?”

Fugo keeps glaring.

Mista turns around. Turns off the car.

“We’ll wait for twenty minutes, then keep driving.” He undoes his seatbelt. “Don’t run off into the forest again.”

Fugo pushes her doors open, climbs out.

“I’m serious!” Mista yells after her. “I’ll get Abbacchio to hunt you down again!”

She flips him off. Keeps marching away.

Giorno and Sheila share a look in the overhead mirror. Sheila whistles.

“Sorry about this,” Mista adds, after a minute. “Had to have that talk with her.”

Giorno mutely nods.

“And I knew she wouldn’t Purple Haze me with you two in the car.”

Sheila bursts out laughing.

“Jesus,” she says. “You didn’t have to go that hard.”

Mista ducks his head. “She ignored my gentle interventions.”

“M-hm.”

“I’ll apologize,” he flips the radio on. “At one point.”

Twenty minutes later, they find Fugo sulking half a mile down the road. She slams the doors on her way in. Doesn’t say a word the whole ride back.

--

Fugo finds her in the morning.

“Hey.” She’s hesitating at the doorway again — her hair is a mess, more than it usually is, the bags under her eyes more prominent. “Can we talk?”

Giorno nods. Puts some paperwork away. “Always.”

Fugo gives that a weak smile. Moves for the free chair.

“Nice curtains,” she adds.

“Thanks,” Giorno says. “Trish bought them for me.”

Fugo hums. “They’re very pink.”

They are. There are also little green frogs, embroidered here and there. They’re very tacky. She loves them.

“What will you turn them into?” Fugo asks. Her tone is almost teasing.

“Hopefully, nothing,” Giorno tries to match it. “Trish would never let me live that down.”

When she looks back at Fugo, Fugo is smiling.

The smile drops the moment she catches Giorno watching — the tips of her ears go red, and she ducks her head. Giorno still files the memory away, dutifully, aware she’s not promised another moment like that.

“So,” Fugo breathes. “Uh. About last night.”

Giorno braces herself, mentally, for wherever this conversation decides to go. “Yes.”

“I’d like to try therapy.”

That was not where she expected this conversation to go.

She blinks. Remembers she’s supposed to have an answer.

“Of course,” she says. “I’ll — wait.”

Fugo seems to be holding back laughter.

“I don’t think you need my approval for that.”

“I don’t,” Fugo is not successful at holding back laughter. “I already messaged Panzanella — I just,” she pauses.

Giorno watches her hands, white-knuckled and curled into fists. Wants to reach out, but doesn’t trust herself not to freak Fugo out.

“I was thinking about, uh,” Fugo goes on. “About what Mista said.”

Giorno nods. “Mista meant nothing bad,” she hurries to add, because she doesn’t want Fugo running off on her again.

Fugo rolls her eyes. “I know,” she says. “Five came into my room at three in the morning to beg for forgiveness — “ She cuts herself off with a laugh. Rubs at her eyes. “Guess I — I mean. He had a point.”

Giorno remains quiet. Lets Fugo continue.

Fugo still has a hand on her face. “I spoke to Abbacchio too.”

Giorno perks up.

“Felt I needed — some things cleared up.” Fugo drops her hand. Giorno can’t miss the slight redness of her eyes. “I phoned her at five in the morning — uh.” She snorts. “She cussed me out for waking her up, but, we talked — “ She gives her own tie a sharp tug. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I shouldn’t be bothering you. “

“Thank you,” Giorno cuts in. Almost reaches out. “For telling me.”

Fugo stares.

Giorno feels Golden Experience buzz under her skin. “I want to know these things,” she continues. Folds her hands on the table. “I like knowing these things about you.”

When she looks up, Fugo is red.

“I am also glad you decided to take that step,” Giorno adds.

“Uh,” Fugo stammers. “Same, for — for both of us. Uh.” She frowns. “Are you turning your papers into animals?”

Giorno becomes aware of the skittering under her hands. Clamps down on it. “I am not.”

Fugo frowns.

Giorno lets the lizard slide out between her fingers. Scuttle down the table.

They both watch it disappear.

“So,” Fugo says.

Giorno glances up.

“I also wanted to say,” Fugo is still red. “I — I did some thinking.”

Giorno nods.

“About my life,” she’s staring down at the floor. “And some things I did.”

Giorno feels herself tense.

“I don’t — right. “ Fugo draws in a deep breath. “I was declared a child prodigy really young.”

Giorno nods.

“Don’t remember much before that.”

Giorno hums. “A true prodigy would.”

Fugo shoots her a look. Laughs. (Giorno feels herself smiling back).

“So, at first I did — reading, and art, and piano, because I was good at that.” Fugo frowns again. “Then I was no longer good for that, so I ended up here, and then I was killing people, cause,”

Giorno nods. “Good at that.”

“So I guess I never,” Fugo grimaces. “Gave much thought to — what I wanted to do?”

Giorno blinks.

“Abbacchio asked me, over the phone,” Fugo rolls her eyes. “What I liked doing, and I couldn't answer.”

Giorno nods, even though Fugo isn’t looking at her, because she can’t trust her voice.

“I suppose it’s not odd,” she adds, after a moment. “You were — you did what was necessary for your survival.”

“Yeah,” Fugo shrugs. “But it’s not like that any more?”

She looks up at then. Giorno, startled, turns a pen into a hopscotch.

Fugo ignores it (badly. Giorno still catches her eyes flit to it, her mouth twitch with a smile).

“Yes,” she snorts. “I guess — you really changed things.”

Giorno’s chest wounds uncomfortably. She forces a smile. Promises herself that, if Fugo kneels again, she’s allowed to turn her desk into a crustacean and make a break for it.

“It did take me — embarrassingly long to reach this conclusion, but.” Fugo smiles at the floor. “I like — you know. What I’m doing right now.”

Giorno feels her eyes widen.

“It’s different out there,” Fugo is still going. “In the town. Better.” She rubs her shoulder. “I like feeling like I helped improve it.”

Giorno feels like she, herself, is floating away. “You did.”

Fugo ducks her head. “Thanks.” Clears her throat. “And thank you for — taking initiative — “

“Don’t thank me for that.”

“Okay.”

There’s a beat of silence.

“Keep talking,” Giorno squeaks. “...If you want.”

Fugo snorts.

The little tablecloth under Giorno’s hands breaks off into a clutter of fruit flies.

“You — “ Fugo starts.

Giorno keeps her face neutral. “I did nothing.”

Fugo is clearly hiding a grin. Giorno has to hold back one of her own.

“Was there a conclusion?” she teases. “To your speech?”

Fugo stops hiding behind her hand. Clears her throat.

“Yes, actually.” She says. “It was that I like spending time with you.”

Giorno blinks.

Fugo is, somehow, growing even redder. “I’d like to spend more time with you, if possible.”

“Huh.” Giorno starts feeling her turning her desk into an animal might be a thing that could happen. That it might be out of her hands at this point.

“That was me asking you on a date,” Fugo adds. Looks away. “In case that wasn’t obvious.”

Giorno grips the table.

“It wasn’t obvious,” she says. “You didn’t even ask the question.”

Fugo’s jaw clenches.

Giorno feels like her heart might overheat.

“Are you serious right now?”

She chirps, “yeah!”

Fugo screws her eyes shut.

Giorno can’t wait. “Would you like to go on a date with me?”

Fugo’s eyes snap open.

Giorno can’t stop herself from beaming. “See? That’s how it’s done.”

“Okay,” Fugo says. “I’ll remember that. Uh.” She shifts. “Your table is a komodo dragon.”

It might be. Giorno strokes the animal’s nose. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“I didn’t — oh, right.” Fugo startles. “I would? I would like that.”

Giorno’s cheeks hurt from smiling.

“Where are we going?”

“Hm.” Giorno gives it a thought. “The pier?”

Fugo nods, then blinks. “Wait, right now?”

Giorno, who just started gently moving her new dragon out of her lap, pauses. “Do you have anything else going on?”

“I — no.” Fugo tilts her head. “You have a komodo dragon.”

Giorno nods. “She can guard my office”

Fugo closes her eyes. “Giorno.”

“We can hold hands.”

Fugo’s eyes snap open. “The Komodo Dragon can guard your office.”

Giorno grins. “So. Pier?”

“Pier sounds nice,” Fugo nods. “I can buy you gelato.”

Giorno’s heart flutters. “Okay.”

“Did you know Bruno and Abba had their first date by the pier too?”

Giorno did. “Hm.”

“Guess it is an obvious choice,” Fugo shrugs. “So. Your pet — guest — “

Giorno grins.

Fugo bites her lip. “Think she’ll okay on his own?”

Giorno has no idea. “I’ll have Mista look after her.”

Fugo squints.

“He’ll be fine,” Giorno steps forward (and over the lizard). Hesitates only a second before grabbing Fugo’s hand.

Fugo’s breath hitches. Her hand is clammy, cold.

Giorno feels so warm she’s sure she should be painful to the touch. If she is, Fugo doesn’t seem to mind.

“Yeah, “ Fugo says. “Yeah, Mista will be fine.”

Giorno grins.

Fugo smiles back. Has to look away.

Giorno wants to gift her the world. “Let’s go get gelato.”

Sheila E

yersinia pestis fugo

kids by the pier tell me you bought donna giovanna ice cream

are you two getting ice cream

are you two on a date???

Where are you getting these terms from?

motherfucker

I didn’t teach you these terms.

did you copyright the entire language now jesus christ youre so pretentious

abbacchios becoming a nurse where do you think im getting disease terminology from Genius my ass

i cant BELIEVE you got giorno on a date

i owe mista money now

You bet against me?

lost ten euro all because you had to become competent all of the sudden

smh. you think you know someone

You bet against me.

I want sixty percent.

go bother mista about it im not getting any money out of this

(well done btw)

So? I’m charging you for emotional betrayal.

(thanks)